Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Galileo Seven

It's easy to forget the the production order of Star Trek differs from the broadcast order; Charlie X, for example, was the seventh episode made but shown second. It gives the production team flexibility. A run of budget saving cheap episodes can be slotted in around more expensive stories, technically demanding stories can be pushed back, and simpler stories brought forwards. Of course this is not unique to Star Trek. The Prisoner fans have spent decades debating the correct order to watch the programme; production order, broadcast order, or some as yet undiscovered third order where everything makes sense. Shifting the episode order can create anomalies. Balance Of Terror (filmed 8th) and Shore Leave (filmed 17th) are shown back-to-back. Minor character Angela Martine is in both episodes so the week after her fiancé dies in a Romulan attack, on their wedding day, she is getting friendly with Lieutenant Rodriguez.

The Menagerie was made as the 15th and 16th episodes, out of 29, and it was shown as episodes 11 and 12. It also seems to be the first story totally written and filmed since Star Trek began broadcasting on NBC; so it's also the first story to be influenced by public reaction. This makes it a good midpoint for the series. Star Trek before The Menagerie is an unknown quantity, nobody quite knows what stories this series will do best, or how the characters work. Star Trek after The Menagerie is the series with “the guy with the ears”. It's the point where Spock completes the transition from character to hero. Spock has always been the one who uses logic to find, and voice, the hard but correct options. In Where No Man Has Gone Before, he's the first person to recommend killing Gary Mitchell. In Balance Of Terror he surprises everyone in the briefing room by agreeing with Stiles and recommending the Romulan ship be destroyed. However The Menagerie is the first time he's given a proper heroic storyline when he kidnaps Captain Pike. At first the audience is left to guess at Spock's motives, even his friends doubt him, but Spock is correct. Talos IV is the best place for Pike, and the means of getting him there are justified by the ends. It's essentially the same storyline given to Kirk in The Conscience Of The King; presented with a problem, and unwilling to involve his friends, Kirk is challenged, but proved correct in the end.

All this is to try and explain why exactly The Galileo Seven feels so out of step with the series at this point. In The Galileo Seven Spock is wrong. He makes poor decisions, is unable to take the reactions of his human colleagues into account, misunderstands the responses of the inhabitants of Taurus II, and gives an order which directly kills one of the men under his command; if not ordered to remain on guard away from the shuttle Gaetano would not have died. Finally Spock is given a scene where he openly questions his own decision making.

SPOCK: Strange. Step by step, I have made the correct and logical decisions. And yet two men have died.
MCCOY: And you've brought our furry friends down on us.
SPOCK: I do seem to have miscalculated regarding them, and inculcated resentment on your parts. The sum of the parts cannot be greater than the whole.
MCCOY A little less analysis and more action. That's what we need, Mister Spock.

Spock only saves the day when he stops relying completely on logic and, in the words of Captain Kirk, reasons it is time for an emotional outburst. Spock's decision making process is not just questioned, as Kirk's is in The Conscience Of The King, it's actually tested and found wanting. If this was a war film Spock would be the cocky Lieutenant who realises he has a lot to learn and is not yet ready for command. 

The Galileo Seven was made 13th, a couple of episodes before The Menagerie, and held back until episode 16. One of the reasons it feels out of place is because Balance Of Terror another significant Spock focused episode aired in the meantime. Balance Of Terror, also made pre-Menagerie, fits much better because Spock is given the heroic 'man who is wronged 'storyline; character A dislikes character B because someone like B was responsible for a terrible event in A's past, when A's life is saved by B, A realises B is okay and learns it is wrong to judge people as a group. Moving Balance Of Terror means the run of episodes goes like this; The Menagerie, Spock as hero; The Conscience Of The King, Spock light story; Balance Of Terror, Spock as hero (he wins over the bigoted Lieutenant Stiles and saves the day by firing the vital phaser shot); Shore Leave, Spock light story; The Galileo Seven, Spock makes bad decisions and gets one man killed. You can see why the story jars. 

The other element of The Galileo Seven which feels off is the attitude of the crashed shuttle crew to Spock. Granted they're in a stressful situation. And, granted even before discovering the planet is inhabited by 12 foot "huge, furry creatures" which want them all dead, the seven crew know three people may have to be left behind to allow the shuttle to achieve orbit. If they're going to be abandoned along with non-essential equipment to make the shuttle light enough to take off they want some reassurance their life is more valued than the Galileo's candy floss machine, and Spock is never going to be the commander to give that assurance, but they start whining and sniping very quickly. McCoy in particular seems to be put out simply because Spock treads on one of his jokes:

MCCOY: Partial pressure of oxygen, seventy millimetres of mercury. Nitrogen one forty. Breathable, if you're not running in competition.
SPOCK: Just the facts, Doctor.
MCCOY: Traces of argon, neon, krypton, all in acceptable quantities. However, I wouldn't recommend this place as a summer resort. 

There's something very passive aggressive about that summer resort comment. McCoy gets in a dig because Spock only wants facts. Now McCoy might simply be trying to raise people's spirits with a little humour if it wasn't for the next scene being one where McCoy follows Spock outside and needles him about his approach to command being based on logic. Then the very next scene, after Spock says his decision on who stays behind will be based on logic, not drawing lots as Lieutenant Boma suggests, contains this exchange: 

SPOCK: ... Now gentlemen, I suggest we move outside to make a further examination of the hull in the event we've overlooked any minor damage.
BOMA: If any minor damage was overlooked, it was when they put his head together.
MCCOY: Not his head, Mister Boma, his heart. His heart.

In the space of three scenes McCoy moves from taking digs at Spock to openly criticising him in front of junior crew-members. And, unsurprisingly, the crew become increasingly hostile and aggressive, with Lieutenant Boma in particular being almost irrationally determined to make shows of compassion in front of Spock as he insists on burials for both dead crewmen. It all comes to a head after one of the creatures is driven off after attacking the shuttle.

SPOCK: The moment they discover they're not seriously hurt, they'll be back. Meanwhile, please check the aft compartment. See if there's anything you can unload to lighten the ship.
BOMA: Mister Gaetano's body's back there.
SPOCK: It will of course have to be left behind.
BOMA: Not without a burial.
SPOCK: I wouldn't recommend it. The creatures won't be far away.
BOMA: Not without a burial, Mister Spock.
SPOCK: It would expose members of this crew to unnecessary peril.
BOMA: I'll take that chance. You see, Mister Spock, I would insist upon a decent burial even if your body was back there.
MCCOY: Mister Boma.
BOMA: I'm sick and tired of this machine!
SCOTT: That's enough!

It's rather hypocritical of McCoy to utter that shocked, “Mister Boma” as if he hasn't spent all their time on the planet second guessing Spock's decisions, and criticising him. If he can't set a good example he shouldn't be surprised when other people think insubordination is okay. It's worth noting it's Scotty who tells Boma “that's enough”. Mr. Scott is one of the stars of this episode. He gets on with his work with quiet competence. He doesn't join in the communal whinging. And he comes up with the solution to their fuel problem. In short, he plays the sensible second in command role normally taken by Spock. Back on the Enterprise, Uhura is also given a good character moment when she suggests a way to narrow the search because Taurus Two is the only planet in Murasaki 312 capable of supporting life. It would have been easy to give this line to Kirk, or make him look smarter by seeing the solution before everyone else. It's also good writing because it almost unnoticeably solves the problem of how the Enterprise can get to the right planet in an area described as comprising at least four complete solar systems.

Robert Gist, the director, gives us claustrophobic planet scenes as well as the human tension on the shuttlecraft. He mostly keeps the camera low, even when people are climbing on rocks, and this, plus lots of dry ice, and lots of twisting rock canyons makes Taurus Two feel like an easy place to get lost. One weaknesses of Star Trek's sound stage planets is their attempt to create the illusion of space in a confined area. The rocks of Taurus Two don't look any more realistic than usual -one of the alien spears grazes a rock and causes a shower of polystyrene- but not seeing a horizon really helps, and the constant weird scraping sound, wood rubbing on leather according to Spock as the natives prepare their weapons, gives a more threatening feel than the usual ambient planet noise. The director, or editor, also makes the wise decision not to give us a close-up look at the inhabitants of Taurus Two. Although impressively bulky, they look a bit silly and the trick of having them holding regular sized spears and shields, but replacing them with giant versions in shots with the shuttle crew never really convinces; it also leads to a whopping great continuity error when a regular sized shield is dropped near Spock, Boma and Gaetano which changes to a giant version in the next shot. 

The Galileo Seven is a unique episode. The unusual personal conflict and claustrophobia makes it feels doom laden. Once the Galileo has taken off the shuttle scenes have a sombre feel; even though the audience knows the Enterprise is still in the area the crew don't. Nimoy plays Spock musing on his first command very well, you can see the disappointment behind the emotionless mask. When he is questioned on jettisoning the fuel he sits completely still, his hands locked and only his thumbs twist and twitch at the bottom of the frame to betray his interior turmoil. This is a self-doubting Spock we have never seen before, and one we wouldn't have seen at all if this episode had been made any later.

Crew deaths: Three. Lieutenants Latimer and Gaetano, on the shuttle. And Ensign O'Neill an Enterprise search party member.
Running total: 23.


The tag scene at the end of the episode is bizarre. It's the standard crew laughs at something Spock says scene but the reaction is bizarrely over the top. Uhura, Yeoman Mears, and a blond haired crew-woman are so tickled by Spock's line they rock backwards and forwards against the communication console. Kirk laughs so hard he barely makes it back to his chair without falling over. McCoy stands next to the Captains chair and almost doubles over at one point. Sulu keeps looking back from the helm and guffawing so much you worry he's going to steer the Enterprise into a star. And Scotty has to walk across the set and lean against a wall to support himself in his hilarity, before wiping the tears from his eyes. Maybe this was the last shot of a long day, or the twenty third attempt at the same scene. The whole thing is so OTT it's difficult not to wonder if the cast is being sarcastic.

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